When Rubens had not yet marriedHelene Fourmenthe had already painted her sister Susana Lunden. And several years later, around 1636, he painted in this painting what was already his wife and two of his children: Carla Joanna and Frans.
Helena Fourment and her children by Rubens
That marriage was the second ofRubens, as he had been widowed fromIsabel Brandtin 1626. And Helene he married in 1630, when the painter was already over 50 years old. That didn't stop the couple from having five children.
Rubens until his death in 1640 painted numerous times his beloved girl (37 years his junior), with whom he was deeply in love and dazzled by her beauty and youth. For this reason, among these portraits there are more official ones, others with a very familiar character, and there are also some with a strong erotic charge. And he also used her on many occasions as a model for his paintings with religious and also mythological themes.
However, in this painting, he dominates the intimate and home environment. It is a painting that the painter would make for himself. Hence the evident spontaneity, both in the scene represented and in the way of painting it, since a very fast and loose brushstroke can be seen. In addition, he has stopped in detail, only in what interests him most. Especially in the heads and faces of the three characters.
In fact, it's not finished, just likethey are seen in certain parts where there is hardly any paint and only the initial primer is discovered. Perhaps because he did it in his spare time, and was forced to abandon it on numerous occasions due to the heavy workload of theAntwerpteacher. Although there are also scholars who think that he left areas unworked to propose a possible expansion of the family, incorporating a new baby, since in 1635 a new girl was born that perhaps he could even sketch to add her.
Even so it is a work of great charm, especially in the way it represents its children. Little Frans is shown playful and looking at us, the spectators. While her sister, Clara looks at her mother with veneration. The truth is that some have wanted to see in Helene the representation of a kind of Madonna of a profane nature.
However, even without finishing the work, the quality of the painting is denoted in its extraordinary color. A color that in Rubens, despite itsFlemishorigin, must always be linked to his knowledge of and admiration forVenetian painting, especially the one that considered the great referent of him: Tiziano.
The work is currently owned by the Louvre Museum in Paris.